Though Angelica Russell is now a University of Memphis sophomore, she'll never forget being called a "four-eyed dork" as a child.
"I've been wearing glasses since I was 4, and I've heard that a lot," Russell said. "It's stayed with me."
As part of the U of M Student Activities Council's Writing on the Wall project, students gathered in the Panhellenic Building last week to paint hateful words and phrases — such as "four-eyed dork" — on cinder blocks. Later this month, the council will use the blocks to create an 8-by-32-foot wall in the student plaza.
"The wall is a physical representation of the walls we build between ourselves every day by using hurtful terms," said Jen Armstrong, Student Activities Council president. "[On April 3rd], we'll rip the wall down and that represents tearing down these walls so we can start addressing the issues that we create between ourselves."
On a recent afternoon, about 20 students — mostly women — sat on a blue tarp on the floor of a room in the Panhellenic Building while they painted hateful words and phrases on blocks.
Brittany Smart, a junior marketing major, painted "All Blacks are Poor" on her block.
"It's a stereotype that you see so often in the media," Smart said. "On television news, they always interview black people in the projects."
Other blocks included "You Big Dummy," "Girl Drummers Suck," "She Fine But Too Smart," and "Nappy Head."
"The only things people can't paint are specific names or calls to action. For example, you can't instruct someone to go out and hurt a group of people," Armstrong said. "Also, no senseless cursing. It has to be a phrase that's been used against you, not one that you've used against someone else."
The project is part of Why Do You Hate Me Week, an annual campus-wide event hosted by the Student Activities Council to help students tackle discrimination. The week officially begins March 30th and culminates with the wall tearing-down ceremony.
"The wall will be put up with mortar, but it won't be up long enough to set. Anyone can help tear the wall down," Armstrong said. "We'll have ropes tied to it, and people will get on one end of a rope to pull it down."